The 2015 Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC) of Women in Computing was held at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, TX, from Wednesday, October 14, to Friday, October 16. Produced by the Anita Borg Institute (ABI) and presented in partnership with the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM), it is the world’s largest technical conference for women in computing and largest gathering of women technologists. I was fortunate enough to attend my first GHC and be one of the approximately 12,000 attendees this year. It was the first time I had been in a place with so many other women in tech, the first time that we females overwhelmingly outnumbered the number of males. There was a good mix of students and professionals with huge encouragement for building connections, sharing ideas, and being inspired, and I have definitely come away from GHC with all three.
I headed to GHC Tuesday afternoon alongside thirteen fellow excited Drexel students. Even before the conference, company sponsors were already holding invite-only networking and social events on Tuesday night. These events continued throughout the rest of the conference, giving time for attendees to meet, talk, and enjoy food with both employees of the company holding the event as well as with each other. I went to several of these parties, which were generally held over breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and they provided a great chance to have personable conversations with technologists in different fields.
The company events were in addition to GHC, which was three days packed full with presentations, professional development activities, an open-source day involving a code-a-thon, and much more. Each day included a morning keynote and afternoon plenary featuring speakers such as Hilary Mason, founder of Fast Forward Labs; Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube; and Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and founder of LeanIn. These inspirational speeches were definitely worth attending, and the lighting system and EDM intro music gave them party-like atmospheres. You can check them out here
Hall where keynotes and plenaries were held. Photo by Jessica Eng.
Closeup of main stage.
Plenary speaker Megan Smith, CTO of the United States of America. Photo by Jessica Eng.
Between the keynotes and plenaries, informational and interactive sessions were held on a wide array of topics, including artificial intelligence, data science, career building, open source, productization, and community. I found the chance to sit down for presentations on topics such as security, Internet of Things (IoT), and accessibility and usability. The target audiences for the talks ranged from beginner to advanced, although I thought that the talks I attended were more introductory than their “intermediate” label indicated them to be. I found the IoT lightning talks especially interesting. One of the talks covered using beacons to achieve triple aim and gave me a better understanding of beacons, which I’d first heard about the week prior at the JS.Geo conference.
While all of the above was happening, the career and community fair was also open and never devoid of people. There were well over 200 companies and organizations with booths, and it was an amazing way to interact with professionals.
Rush into career and community fair, day one. Photo by Jessica Eng.
Google’s booth. Photo by Jessica Eng.
GHC 2015 was a tiring non-stop three days, but it was equally as valuable. If you get the chance to attend GHC, leave half of your luggage empty for the overabundance of swag, and try to plan out presentations you’re interested in attending. However much you plan, be flexible. Things change. Your conversation with a random person standing next to you in line could even lead to an invitation for some special event. Make the most of your GHC experience, and prepare yourself for the fatigue that will be completely worth it.